Dosie awards: Beyond Meds a finalist in these social media pharma awards

I didn’t win.

I did come in fifth out of about fifty. Given that this is an award made by interests in the pharmaceutical industry the irony is rather entertaining. The winners are all listed here. This is what I prepared for the awards event with the help of a friend/ghostwriter as well as Robert Whitaker who supplied the stats. I’m still too ill to write an entire article that requires research, though much of this has been taken from posts I’ve written in the past and the final version was edited by me as well. This piece is my voice with the help of my friends.

Pharma has destroyed my life so I could not miss this opportunity to let them know. I won’t let the destruction guide the rest of my life. I’m rising from the ashes to let people know they have options other than neurotoxic drugs to treat most mental health issues!

Pharmaceutical companies, widely known to make billion dollar profits on the psychiatric drugs they manufacture, spend equally incomprehensible amounts of money on direct to consumer and medical professional advertising campaigns. One of their targeted demographics is children diagnosed with ADHD or depression. Less well-known, but significant, is that exposure to psychiatric drugs such as stimulants and antidepressants in childhood increases a child’s risk of developing psychotic or manic episodes and severe mood swings. Once in the psychiatric system, those children who experience psychotic episodes and mood swings will most likely become diagnosed with juvenile bipolar disorder. The pills are rarely, if ever, considered to be the reason for psychosis or moodiness; they purportedly ‘uncover’ the latent bipolarity of the child. Thus, the drugs are not limited to symptom relief: they are also handmaidens, miraculous diagnostic tools. Yet, prior to the prescribing of these drugs to children, juvenile bipolar disorder rarely occurred. In fact, studies of juvenile bipolar patients reveal that 2/3 were not bipolar until they were administered a stimulant or an antidepressant. What is going on here?

Let’s jump back to the summer of 1985 when my story begins. Under the influence of a hallucinogen, I became manic. In fact, I became psychotic a number of times because I took hallucinogens a number of times. And each time I landed in the psych ward. There, I was diagnosed as Bipolar I and subsequently medicated, more or less, for side effects to an illicit drug. I had normal problems of living as well, no doubt, but I no longer put stock in the diagnosis I received that propelled me on this path of being massively drugged with psychotropics. Looking back, I realize that any psychological issues I presented were human responses to a traumatic childhood. According to psychiatric medicine, these issues coupled with the unique expression of my personality rendered me biologically defective. My brain needed to be fixed.

Over the course of nearly a quarter century, I was administered 39 psychotropic drugs; 6 of those drugs were prescribed 2 to 4 times the usual therapeutic dosage. Despite all of this pharmacological effort, I was not cured. I was still suffering. In the end, after much experimentation, I ended up on a cocktail that marginally balanced all the contradicting side effects of all those drugs. In retrospect, I see how one drug led to the next. The mood stabilizers made me depressed which led to the antidepressants. Antidepressants made me agitated and unable to sleep, so benzodiazepines were prescribed for insomnia and restlessness. When benzodiazepines didn’t get rid of the agitation, I was prescribed antipsychotics. All of that medication left me so sedated, the next step was stimulants. The addiction to benzos left me in tolerance withdrawal, increasing my anxiety and thus led to more benzos. Drugs leading to more drugs leading to more drugs leading to more drugs. And once in the trap, it’s almost impossible to see clearly. To realize what is going on is difficult and perhaps sometimes impossible.

In the past, people who were diagnosed with what is now called Bipolar Disorder (manic-depression) before lithium was used as a pharmacological therapy experienced discrete periods of acute mania or depression. When these episodes resolved, individuals maintained symptom free lives. A majority, roughly 75-90%, went on to enjoy long-term mental health stability. They did not suffer from debilitating cognitive impairment. Currently, people who are medicated for bipolar disorder exhibit slow or incomplete recovery from acute episodes, risk recurrence, and tend to remain in the mental health system with perpetual symptoms ranging from mild to severe. In comparison to the pre-medicated Bipolar populations, only 33% experience mental health stability. They also exhibit cognitive impairment on par with that of medicated Schizophrenia, cognitive impairment being a polite term to describe brain damage. In essence, this iatrogenic and medication induced condition translates into growing numbers of disabled individuals. In 1987, there were 1.25 million adults collecting disability due to mental illness. In 2007, there were 3.97 million. Psychotropic medication is clearly, on the whole, not improving the lives of those afflicted with so-called mental illness. (stats from Robert Whitaker)

And what is mental illness, anyway? Does anyone deserve to be the arbiter of normalcy? Why does Western psychiatry get to limit the parameters of human experience, oftentimes through coercion, based on an incomplete and flawed science of the mind and brain? And, more tellingly, are our tactics for dealing with troubled human beings more or less compassionate using chemical restraint? Or, have we as a nation abandoned the obvious violence of the lobotomy for the secretive and bloodless path of the neurotoxic pill? What are the consequences for humanity as this paradigm of care is exported to the rest of the world? >>>

I shed my label of bipolar disorder and have withdrawn from all psychiatric medications. Loudly and publicly. I’ve shed the label many times but people tend to ignore that. Once labeled always mentally ill, no room for simple diversity of our internal experience. My blog title was originally  “Bipolar Blast: a thing of the past…” I use the term bipolar so that I might attract other people wrongly diagnosed because I believe we are thousands and tens of thousands. People who are really suffering from PTSD, drug induced mania (including antidepressant induced mania), terrible stress, poor life coping skills or a spiritual emergency. Changing life-style, emerging through the crisis, and taking personal responsibility for our behaviors, thoughts and feelings could be the answer rather than blaming it all on a brain disease and succumbing to the prevailing theory of mental illness. Too often it is not brought to light that there are other tools and that many of us recover without drug intervention, or with minimal intervention at the time of crisis. Most of us don’t get to find out that this is possible. Many of us don’t want to know. We are afraid. I understand this fear intimately. I do not judge. I grant that it is one’s right and total decision to do what they want with their body. However, I believe that being human is challenging and that will never cease to be. Let’s stop pathologizing it.

My journey into the mental health system began when I was medicated in response to side effects from illicit drug intoxication. What has become tragically clear over the course of my research is that those diagnosed and medicated with psychiatric drugs are often caught in a vicious cycle of controlling symptoms with more drugs caused by the initial or subsequent chemical therapies. Recall my descent into mood stabilizers, antidepressants, benzodiazepines, antipsychotics and stimulants. More ominously, consider the rise in juvenile bipolar disorder diagnoses following the use of stimulants or antidepressants. What this indicates is that initial drug exposure precipitates juvenile bipolar patients, who then become ensnared in the mental health system for life, suffering and oftentimes disabled as the overwhelming majority of juvenile bipolars go on to exhibit a clinical picture similar to severely ill, treatment resistant adults. The results from the NIMH’s Multisite Multimodal Treatment Study of Children with ADHD corroborate this scenario. This was a long-term clinical trial of stimulants over the course of three years which concluded that “medication use was a significant marker not of beneficial outcome, but of deterioration. That is, participants using medication in the 24 to 36 month period actually showed increased symptomatology during that interval relative to those not taking medication.” Those children on medication also had higher ‘delinquency scores’ and were shorter and weighed less than non-medicated counterparts. After six years, the results did not change. Psychiatric medication was “associated with worse hyperactivity-impulsivity and oppositional defiant disorder symptoms” with greater “overall functional impairment.” (stats from Robert Whitaker)

Pharma it’s clear does not help a large number of people who are diagnosed with DSM categories and in fact destroys the life of many of those people. I’m not surprised I did not win the finals of the Dosie award, my blog and it’s popularity being a slap in the face of Pharma. My readers and I have seen the dark side of psychiatry and we seek better and safer options to psychotropics whenever possible.

I’d like to personally name the two drug companies that are most guilty of my own physical demise, though all the psychotropic drugs are potentially nasty and debilitating on them and in some cases especially in withdrawal.

Lamictal and Klonopin as far as I can tell worked together synergistically to make me as sick as I am right now. So that’s GlaxoSmithKline and Roche who are most responsible for my iatrogenisis.

Lamictal acts on glutamate and Klonopin (as all benzos) acts on GABA. Both these drugs have widely unrecognized withdrawal syndromes. For information on benzo issues see here. For Lamictal problems here.

The GABA/glutamate system doesn’t just regulate mood.  It regulates muscle movements, digestion,  and sex–anything that involves anything communicating with anything anywhere in your body. When the drugs are removed after many years all hell breaks loose and is experienced by the whole body and mind. Thanks GSK and Roche for the loss of several years of my life.

The destruction that ensues for some who take these drugs have not been studied virtually at all. And these drug companies most likely would deny the existence of all of us who are so ill. We are invisible victims of a very visible pharmaceutical industry.

Neuroleptics and antidepressants both cause horrible problems too. Don’t imagine since I’ve not named them as the main cause of my issues they’re not a problem. They effectively disable many people and certainly it’s quite likely they’ve played a part in my situation. When one is on so many drugs it’s hard to tease out.

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters